Groundbreaking for Major Keesler Housing Project
Story and Photos by Keith Burton - GCN 3/30/07
Thrower Park in West Biloxi was once filled with homes for Keesler A.F.B. families prior to Hurricane Katrina. The site was cleared after the hurricane to make way for part of the largest Air Force family housing project in history.
Groundbreaking ceremonies marking the occasion were held Friday, March 30, at Thrower park. On hand were Air Force dignitaries, visitors and representatives from the Mississippi's congressional offices. Congressman Gene Taylor was on hand for the event.
Keesler's housing took a severe beating from Hurricane Katrina. Prior to the storm, the base had 1,820 homes in nine neighborhoods. Immediately after the hurricane, 641 units were destroyed and many more suffered major damage. The Air Force, with the help of Congress and President Bush, pushed through financial support to rebuild Keesler's family housing and at the same time make major improvements for the future with $287.8 million in reconstruction money. The funds will build 1,067 new homes starting in April with the first house to be completed in January 2008. All of the work is to be completed by 2010. Meanwhile, Keesler is keeping 600 older housing units livable for the trasition.
Keesler officials say that Oak Park, on the northeast side of the base, as well as Pinehaven and Harrison Court subdivisions will not be rebuilt. The base plans to move its perimeter fence to accommodate the changes. Of the original nine base neighborhoods, four will remain covering 284 acres: Thrower Park, West Falcon, East Falcon and Bay Ridge.
The contractor for the construction is a combine company of Hunt and Yates. Yates Construction is well-known in the area and state for major large construction projects.
The new homes will range from 1,600 square feet, for the smallest homes, to 2,400 sq.ft. for medium homes and the largests, for general officers, will be nearly 4,000 sq.ft. The average value of the homes at current prices is $188,000. Nearly all of Air Force's electronic personnel are trained at the base, as well as many from other services.
Keesler A.F.B. has major effect on the Coast economy with a total impact estimated over $1.2 billion.
The following are a few photographs of the event the the houses planned for construction: